This piece was drawn out of the utter frustration I’ve felt over the last two years, while watching Yemen continue to degrade into a famine-stricken, disease-ridden country. A quarter of Yemen’s population, seven million people, are on the brink of starvation, 3.3 million children are acutely malnourished, and thousands have been killed as a result of a Saudi-led, American and UK-backed, war. News articles emerge into a dim media spotlight every few months to show ever growing atrocities in Yemen, only to quickly disappear again.
This is a war driven by rebels unhappy with an authoritarian establishment supported by al-Qaeda, who in turn were supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The “fight against terrorism” throughout the middle-east region continues as they decide to fight a war, not in Afganistan/Pakistan or Libya or Syria or Iraq, but in Yemen—a strategic location for oil transport. Saudi Arabia has blockaded the main port, where 80% of relief aid and imports are typically delivered, and has implemented a no-fly zone, meaning no aid can be airdropped into the country.
Income tax paid by civilians to governments funds and perpetuates these wars. At the same time, many citizens donate to non-profits that work to stop the genocide of war. Through the process of creating this illustration, I searched for solutions to this cyclical and hypocritical situation. How could I remove myself from the conundrum of perpetuating war through tax payments and resisting war through payments to relief organizations? I can’t just decide to stop paying federal taxes… can I?
After searching online, I found a small ad from the New York City-based National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, calling for the public to stop supporting government-sponsored war by abstaining from paying federal income taxes.
I called the number and asked, “How is this even possible? If you don’t pay your taxes, the IRS shows up at your door and starts stealing your furniture, don’t they?!” “No,” the organization representative answered. “That’s a fear tactic they use.”
Ruth explained that their organization was founded in 1982, but what they call the “modern war tax resisters movement” began during the Second World War. She went on to say that the Vietnam war era was especially strong for war tax resistance, and the organization still has active resisters who have refused to pay federal income taxes dating back to both World War Two and the Vietnam War. “The government sends them threatening letters and sometimes takes money from salaries or bank accounts, but they usually leave you your furniture,” Ruth says. She funnels her federal taxes towards an anti-war NGO, directly paying her tax dollars towards war relief.
The NWTRCC lists those who are openly committed to not paying taxes to fund war on their website. I asked if it was dangerous to let the government know exactly who and where these resisters are. I was reminded that they know exactly who and where you are anyway, when you submit your tax returns.
The NWTRCC is a small, little-known organization, but the bigger and more open the resistance becomes, the greater the pressure will be to change our government’s addiction to war. The IRS may crack down on individuals if the movement becomes large, but with a greater community comes a stronger more formidable force that is much harder to silence.
To stop paying your US federal taxes to fund proxy wars go here! https://nwtrcc.org/
Niki Singleton is a Canadian drawer, painter, and found material sculptor based in Brooklyn. Visit her website to learn more.